Hello from the porch of the Acre on a wonderful summer evening),
Early this morning I received a phone call from a former student, who is now married, has a pre-school, aged daughter, and is recently beginning to prepare for a second child. I only had her in class one semester, but she would speak with me after class regularly. When I once inquired as to why she did so, she replied without hesitation, “You remind me of my grandpa. I responded graciously as I knew that was a compliment, but it was the first time I found myself referred to as a second, generation parent. Furthermore, if I had never been a parent, somehow hopping straight to grandparent was disconcerting. Nevertheless, Grandpa, Dr. Martin (aka: Norman, another story) has continued to be blessed with her presence in my life.
Almost a week has gone by and I did not finish this post, but it has, nevertheless been on my mind. Along with this amazing student, there are other students who have made my life so much richer by their presence. Yet, as I am wont to do, I ponder the topic from most every possible angle and analyze the reasons it makes me ponder in a sort of meta-analytical manner. The thing that will most impress me about a student is not their brilliance, though that is appreciated. The thing that will cause me to note a student as different is not their physical attributes, though again all of that is certainly apparent (but generally as a point of information as it makes no real difference in their classroom performance). The thing that will actually impress me and make me take notice is their character, their integrity, and simply put, I will ask, are they a good person? Is it evident that the morals and values they have either been taught or somehow learned and employ demonstrate a sense of honesty and goodness that I can trust what they say and do? To be sure, this is not some cause cèlébre asking for them to cease being a normal college student. Without a doubt, chances will be taken and mistakes made, but going beyond a certain threshold will cause some unexpected consequence and being 18 or beyond lays on a new level of responsibility many are not ready to manage. Perhaps that was the gift military service offers that is unrealized. Most of what you do has an immediate consequence and accountability is generally closely following. I am still realizing what being a veteran does in terms of allowing a sense of ethos and respect.
In the time since I last added, I had the occasion to meet with the person who is the central impetus for this post. Meeting with her daughter and her (and the father when the schedule allows) brightens my day immeasurably because of her graciousness and her simple goodness. She works hard at what she does, regardless the task. She thinks and cares about others and that is evident by the way she acts and by what she says (or does not say). As a mother she is level, firm, and consistent. Already, and actually for some time, her little one demonstrates a keen sense of what is appropriate and the manners necessary when addressing other people. She is sweet, adorable, and knows already how to question boundaries. For those who are parents, I am sure you can read this and smile when you reflect on your own offspring. Yet, even as one who had no children of my own, it is not that difficult to see how the lessons taught at home filter out into daily practice. On the other hand, too often we want to blame others for our behavior. In the days since Dayton and El Paso, there has been a spate of arrests for people posting or orally noting they want to inflict harm upon others. Over the past 24 hours I listened to a mother cry as her 15 year old was handcuffed and arrested for implying he wanted to kill at least 7 people. The weeping mother notes he is still a baby and he would not do what those crazy people are doing (this is a paraphrase). It seems parents need to have a serious conversation with their children about violence and appropriate posting. I cannot imagine trying to be in law enforcement now, not that I ever wanted to do such a thing. Likewise, it appears that the President, in spite of claiming he is not afraid of the NRA, has crumbled again about standing up for stricter background checks. As a country, as people, we need to have serious discussions that do something about violence in general. How do we get from teaching our children to be respectful and use manners to if I am angry I am going to shoot you and ask questions later. How does that happen? That evolution itself needs to be discussed. The anger and vitriolic tenor of so many that I see the headlines that tell me a 14 year old can kill five members of his family or my university’s newspaper lead story is about a gunman arrested in the little town in which we are located as he tried to force his way into another person’s apartment. Nothing seems reasonable in any of that, but then again nothing seems that reasonable in most anything I read from day to day be it in the Amazon, in Russia, Hong Kong, China, North Korea, or certainly here in most any part or at any level of the country I call home. As I walk around I overhear students noting that someone needs to be F-ed up or lit up, or in someway assaulted. Really?? That fixes the problem? No, it creates new ones.
It is difficult to believe that it is almost a month ago I began the writing of this post, but I think I have been preoccupied with a variety of issues. I will be posting about some of that soon, but for the moment, I can suffice it to say that being in the second week of a new semester has been a bit overwhelming. Add to that becoming the exchange parent to a 16 year old Danish boy, and I have a new-found respect for single parents. I will be explaining more of that soon. This evening, he is at a football game, ironically in the town where I was once a parish pastor. I will be at a dinner helping celebrate someone’s birthday. Tomorrow, there is a mandatory meeting for Anton, the student and me in Harrisburg and that will take a significant part of our day. It is also a weekend that I need to be really intentional and get a boatload of work done on a number of levels. I think I might be back in my office for a while yet tonight while he is at the game. I would like to get back to what I originally began to write about and the former student who gives me such hope. She is the epitome of goodness and a willingness to share her faithful and insightful heart and love. She is a person who under-estimates her incredible influence and beauty and how much of a difference she makes in the lives of others. She is brilliant beyond her wildest imagination, but she is also unparalleled in the depth and level of common sense she exhibits on a daily basis. As I have watched her over these years all the positive things I have noted here just seems to grow more profound with each passing year. What I think is more astonishing is how regardless what someone else does, she responds with a sense of kindness and forgiveness. This is not to say she is perfect nor that there is never a time where she might demonstrate some consternation, she does not hold a grudge and almost always she will try to figure out a way to bridge that chasm. I have had the opportunity to speak at length more than once during the past couple months and a conversation with her always lifts my spirits. Why? Because she is genuine; because she is gentle; because she is honest and thoughtful.
Those are traits we were raised to value and traits we were told we needed to embody, but so few people actually do it. She does. It is a rare gift for those of us who are fortunate enough to be around or know her. More importantly, I know that both she and her husband work diligently to instill those characteristics and actions into their daughter, and the daughter is a bit of a mini-me of her mother, both in terms of physicality and in personality. It is rather endearing (actually very much so) to watch. I am certainly the grandpa to the little one, or I guess if she was accurate to begin with I am the great-grandparent. Holy Buckets! Making me feel more than ancient. As I look at the revisions of this blog, while so many things have happened and perhaps even my view of the world has changed yet again, my view on the person about who this blogs is focused has not changed, except to appreciate her even more. We chatted not long ago and even with all the other things she has going on, she focused on what she need to do yet to improve things even more, but those improvements are to benefit those around her. She is also one of the most selfless people I have ever met. She has a heart that focuses on the needs of the other. She has a spirit that is never settled if she can provide a thought, a prayer, a care of some sort for those around her. She makes me feel selfish beyond words. I know that might surprise some, but that gives some indication of how giving she is. There are many tings I want to do, but I need to get on with some things yet this evening, including getting over to someone’s house for dinner. I began this blog with a title in which I tried to offer some sense of this most amazing year person. She has done more in a quarter century to teach me about how to live one’s love simply and purely than anyone I have ever met. She is simple, but in the most profound way, in the most incredibly deep manner. She is intuitive and smart beyond the Dean’s List grades she achieved as a student. She is a person I am blessed, humbled, and overjoyed came into my morning class some time ago.
Here is part of what she reminds me of. I could have offered this old Cat Steven’s tune as a sort of warning, but she knew so much more than I ever realized. She is so much more profound. Enjoy the song and as always,
thanks for reading.